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Basic Accounts Receivable Management
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Basic Accounts Receivable Management

This article will outline some of the basic components for managing accounts receivable, ranging from policies and measurement to outsourcing options.

The foundation behind account receivables is your policies and procedures for sales. For example, do you have a credit policy? When and how do you evaluate a customer for credit? If you look at past payment histories, you should be able to ascertain who should get credit and who shouldn't. Additionally, you need to establish sales terms. For example, is it beneficial to offer discounts to speed-up cash collections? What is the industry standard for sales terms? There are several questions that have to be answered in building the foundation for managing accounts receivables.

A system must be in place to track accounts receivables. This will include balance forwards, listing of all open invoices, and generation of monthly statements to customers. An aging of receivables will be used to collect overdue accounts. You must act quickly to collect overdue accounts. Start by making phone calls followed by letters to upper-level managers for the Customer. Try to negotiate settlement payments, such as installments or asset donations. If your collection efforts fail, you may want to use a collection agency.

Also remember that the collection process is the art of knowing the customer. A psychological understanding of the customer gives you insights into what buttons to push in collecting the account. One of the biggest mistakes made in the collection process is a "sticks only" approach. For some customers, using a carrot can work wonders in collecting the overdue account. For example, in one case the company mailed a set of football tickets to a customer with a friendly note and within weeks, they received full payment of the outstanding account.

Measurement is another component within account receivable management. Traditional ratios, such as turnover will measure how many times you were able to convert receivables over into cash.

Example: Monthly sales were $ 50,000, the beginning monthly balance for receivables was $ 70,000 and the ending monthly balance was $ 90,000. The turnover ratio is:
.625 ($ 50,000 / (($70,000 + $ 90,000)/2)). Annual turnover is .625 x 360 / 30 or 7.5 times. If you divide 360 (bankers year) by 7.5, you get 48 days on average to collect your account receivables. You can also measure your investment in receivables. This calculation is based on the number of days it takes you to collect receivables and the amount of credit sales.

Example: Annual credit sales are $ 100,000. Your invoice terms are net 30 days. On average, most accounts are 13 days past due. Your investment in accounts receivable is:
(30 + 13) / 365 x $ 100,000 or $ 11,781.

Example: Average monthly sales are $ 10,000. On average, accounts receivable are paid 60 days after the sales date. The product costs are 50% of sales and inventory-carrying costs are 10% of sales. Your investment in accounts receivable is:
2 months x $ 10,000 = $ 20,000 of sales x .60 = $ 18,000.

Measurements may need to be modified to account for wide fluctuations within the sales cycle. The use of weights can help ensure comparable measurements.

Example: Weighted Average Days to Pay = Sum of ((Date Paid - Due Date) x Amount Paid) / Total Payments

Example: Best Possible Days Outstanding = (Current A/R x # of Days in Period) / Credit Sales for Period

Receivable Management also involves the use of specialist. After-all, you need to spend most of your time trying to lower your losses and not trying to collect overdue accounts. A wide range of specialist can help:

- Credit Bureau services to review and approve new customers.
- Deduction and collection agencies
- Complete management of billings and collections